Brit Award nominees Wolf Alice headed for Belfast and Dublin
Indie-rockers Wolf Alice have been nominated for a Grammy, a Brit Award and the Mercury Music Prize and their debut album was one of last year's major success stories. Ahead of two Irish gigs next week, singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell talks to Brian Campbell
HAVING toured all over the world and played the main stage at Glastonbury, London band Wolf Alice play their first headline gig in Belfast next week.
The band – Ellie Rowsell (vocals, guitar), Joff Oddie (guitars, vocals), Theo Ellis (bass) and Joel Amey (drums, vocals) – have been compared to everyone from The Breeders and Pixies to Lana Del Rey and My Bloody Valentine.
Their grungey debut My Love Is Cool was one of last year’s bestselling albums and saw them get nominated for a Grammy, the Mercury Prize, a Brit Award and being named iTunes 'Best New Artist of 2015’.
You took your time with My Love Is Cool and did a lot of gigging before recording and releasing the album – was that a calculated plan?
I think so, yeah. There were times when we wanted to put it out a bit earlier, but because of logistics and us thinking it wasn’t quite ready, we pushed it back and I think we made the right decision. But if we’d waited any longer, I think we probably would have imploded.
The band had built up quite a buzz, so were you pleased with the positive press and reviews you got when the album finally came out?
Well we were having such a busy week that we weren’t really aware of what was going on until we were driving home from somewhere one night and just checked our Twitter and saw the response it was getting. We were very happy that it got to No.2 [in the charts, kept off the top by Florence + the Machine]. In our heads we were just happy for it to be in the charts at all.
Turn to Dust is quite a lo-fi and stripped-back song to open the album with. Was that a deliberate move – to almost lull people in?
It has a good intro, so that was the main reason we put in on first. And then, yeah, it was like a forewarning that it might not be the grungey/guitar album that everyone was expecting.
Were you pleasantly surprised when the band was nominated for the Mercury Prize, a Grammy and a Brit Award?
Yeah, I was really surprised. I didn’t think a Mercury nomination was out of the question but I didn’t expect the Grammy and Brits nominations; I didn’t think we fitted the mould. The Mercurys ceremony was OK. There was no alcohol and it was all in rows and it felt a bit like a lecture hall. But I spoke briefly to Gaz Coombes, who was lovely. I loved Supergrass when I was younger, so I was happy to have met him.
Have you been singing since you were quite young?
I sang in school choirs and stuff and I practised a lot. I think people underestimate the voice in that sense; it’s very much an instrument. If you practise the guitar every day you’ll become a good guitarist and it’s the same with singing. At the start I didn’t think I had a good enough voice to be a singer in a band, but I learned what ways work for me and which way my voice sounded best.
Have you done many Irish gigs to date?
We did the Longitude festival [in Dublin] and we played Belfast with The 1975, which was great, but this will be our first headline show there.
Is it true that you played 150 gigs last year?
Yeah, our tour manager kept count of them for us. Those are the official gigs, so there might have been more. It was an incredible year; the best year we’ve ever had.
Which bands were you into when you were growing up?
When I was a kid I listened to whatever my dad was listening to or whatever was in the charts – Steps and Spice Girls and that kind of stuff. Then I got into indie music like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Strokes, White Stripes and Kings of Leon. I had a fleeting romance with 60s garage music and then after school I opened my mind to anything that came my way, really.
Are there any Irish bands you like at the minute?
I really like [Dublin act] Girl Band; they’re cool. I’ve watched a lot of their live videos on YouTube. The sounds they create are mind-boggling. I’m really into them.
Are you working on the next album now?
Well we’ve made lots of demos already, so we’re hoping to start fleshing them out. We’re constantly trying to write. I think as soon as we finish this album cycle and do festivals this summer, we’ll go away somewhere and record something. I’d like to do it now, but there’s a lot more touring to do.
Which songs from the current album do you enjoy playing live?
Giant Peach and Fluffy and the heavier ones are a lot of fun.
Is it true that the single Bros is dedicated to your friend Sadie Cleary, who was in an earlier incarnation of Wolf Alice?
I did put a few personal lines into it about me and her but I tried to make it universal. But I guess you always draw from your own influences.
Do you think Sadie has any regrets about opting out of the music business, considering the success that Wolf Alice have been enjoying?
I don’t think so. She’s a nurse now, so she’s saving people's lives while we’re ruining them (laughs).
Wolf Alice play the Mandela Hall in Belfast on Friday March 4 (doors 7pm) and the Olympia in Dublin on March 5. My Love Is Cool is out now